WhatsApp Criticizes App Store Privacy Label, Says It Favors iMessage and First-Party Apps [Update: Apple Responds]

WhatsApp iPhone

WhatsApp has criticized Apple for its new App Store privacy labels saying that it gives an unfair advantage to iMessage which comes pre-installed on iOS devices.

With iOS 14, Apple introduced a change in the App Store listing that requires developers to submit “privacy labels” highlighting the user data their apps are collecting. Apple announced this change at WWDC 2020, with the new regulations coming into effect in January next year.

WhatsApp has now criticized Apple for this privacy label since iMessage comes pre-installed on the iPhone and so the company does not have to show any privacy label for the user data that it is collecting. The criticism comes as the deadline from Apple requiring developers to submit the necessary information for the app label has expired (December 8). WhatsApp believes that these privacy labels could end up spooking many users and push them to use iMessage instead.

“We think labels should be consistent across first and third party apps as well as reflect the strong measures apps may take to protect people’s private information,” a WhatsApp spokesperson told Axios. “While providing people with easy to read information is a good start, we believe it’s important people can compare these ‘privacy nutrition’ labels from apps they download with apps that come pre-installed, like iMessage.”

In its blog post, WhatsApp has also detailed the various user data that it collects and the label that Apple will be showing for the same. The company highlights that Apple’s privacy labels do not highlight the extent developers go to protect user data. It also notes that while WhatsApp cannot see the messages sent on its platform or the precise location of a user, it still has to use the same privacy label as other apps that do access such data.

Update: Apple has responded to WhatsApp’s criticism and said that if an app does not have an App Store listing, its privacy labels will be published by the company on its own website. This means that the privacy labels of all pre-installed apps on iPhones will have their privacy labels displayed on Apple’s website.

[Via WhatsApp, Axios]